Published on October 16th, 2011 | by Greg0
Camp With Hydrapak’s Sizable Jolla and Mountainsmith’s Sunlight
Fall brings some of the best weather for the Bay Area, and plenty of other places as well. Whether it’s a trip to a corn maze or a pumpkin patch, or more serious hikes through Yellowstone or around your favorite state park, autumn is a lovely time to go and see what nature has to offer. We’ve been dragging several items through the leaves, dirt, wind, and rain, and have two to present today: a comfy sleeping bag and a large hydration backpack.
We’ll get things started with the Mountainsmith Sunlight 20. This is a right-hand zip, down sleeping bag, bringing with it the benefits and costs of that material- the warmth and comfort, but the weight and occasional issues with lumping. The Sunlight uses 650 grade down- a nice mid-range that makes it great for camping in colder climates but perhaps not the best fit for the ultralightweight or alpine crowd (the 20, of course, indicates the lowest temperature recommended for use, in Fahrenheit degrees).
What we liked most about this bag is the size- it can fit folks taller than 6 feet, which many bags have trouble accommodating. We have a writer who is about 6’3″, and he had no trouble with the Sunlight. Shoulders and even legs can still be constraining though, we wouldn’t recommend this bag for the really broad folks. The mummy style is a good way to shave off some weight and make the bag a bit more cozy, but if you’re the type that needs quite a bit of ventilation or room to move around, you might want a non-mummy bag. Available in only one color, a citron green with darker edging, as usual Mountainsmith has made a solid, fairly normal-looking, durable-feeling bag. Mud wiped off cleanly, stitching was excellent, and zippers were well-built. Our only real issue was the neck baffling- it wasn’t optional or fully expandable, and one smaller writer reported feeling a bit swallowed. At $189 MSRP and available for around $140 online, this is the best bag we’ve tried this season and an excellent choice for those in need of a mid-priced sleeping bag. Perfect for taller folks, and with a nice included compression sack and storage bag, we still look to Mountainsmith as one of our top go-to suppliers for outdoors gear.
Out of the blue, though, comes a manufacturer that we weren’t so familiar with. There are so many bags and styles of backpacks these days- you have to decide on whether you want an external frame for heavy lifting, an internal one, or just a plain-old backpack. Do you want three pockets? Eight? Twelve? A laptop sleeve? A messenger or a camera bag or even a combo/hybrid with wheels? You’ll probably want hydration- and though plenty of bags offer room for sleeves or sometimes provide their own, they aren’t quite so many bags with hydration as a focus and a backpack built around that use. The Hydrapak Jolla is precisely this, and is the largest pack available at press time from the company, providing 1100 cubic inches of storage and three liters of liquid. There’s also room for two water bottles in the provided pockets, and the reservoir is removable and one of the best we’ve tried- easily cleanable, and not prone to leaks or punctures that can easily ruin competitors. You can handily remove and replace the reservoir without the tube, allowing you convenient hose-free refilling.
Available in black and teal (and, according to Amazon, Ivory?), we liked the upper pocket for your phone or MP3 player, with headphone passthrough. A sternum and waist straps are provided, and the straps are fairly comfortable- not the best we’ve tried, but weight balanced fairly well. Cinch straps galore help compress gear, and it held up nicely in some rain- the bottom seemed a little less water-resistant than we wanted, but overall the stitching and build quality was quite good, and the weather-protecting lid was nice. We weren’t quite satisfied with the padding and ventilation- almost every good hiking bag we’ve used has provided better ventilation, preventing soaked and sweaty backs. There aren’t many strong contenders in the hydrating pack sector, and so we’re happy to welcome Hydrapak. At $144 MRSP, but available for about half of that price online, it’s a decent deal. The hydration reservoir itself is the best we’ve tried, even if the surrounding bag doesn’t quite take top honors.